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Chile (Tier 1)

The Government of Chile fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Chile remained on Tier 1. These efforts included awarding restitution to three trafficking victims, amending the penal code to increase the maximum penalty for trafficking crimes, contracting an NGO to oversee services for child trafficking victims during a period of bureaucratic transition, and issuing residency permits to 16 trafficking victims. Although the government meets the minimum standards, Chilean courts issued lenient sentences to convicted traffickers, resulting in a pattern of suspended sentences that could undercut nationwide efforts to fight trafficking. Victim services provision remained uneven, with limited access to care for male victims and victims outside the capital.

  • Sentence traffickers to adequate penalties, which should include significant imprisonment, as required by Articles 411 and 367 of the penal code.
  • Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and as appropriate, convict traffickers, including domestic child sex traffickers, under Article 411 of the penal code.
  • Provide suitable, safe shelter for child and male trafficking victims as required by law and expand access to specialized shelters for all victims, including outside the capital.
  • Increase training on application of Article 411 for judges and prosecutors.
  • Actively screen for trafficking victims among vulnerable migrant groups.
  • Continue efforts to disrupt systematic child abuse, including trafficking, in care facilities serving trafficking victims and hold violators accountable.
  • Provide victims access to a full range of services, including long-term rehabilitation.
  • Develop guidelines for officials to screen for trafficking indicators for children involved in illicit activities to ensure the government does not penalize trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit.
  • Consistently support victim efforts to seek restitution.

The government maintained prosecution efforts. Article 411-quater of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking, prescribing penalties ranging from five years and one day to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine for offenses involving an adult victim and 10 years and one day to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine for those involving a child. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Chilean officials continued to investigate and prosecute many internal child sex trafficking cases under Article 367 of the penal code, which penalized “promoting or facilitating the prostitution of minors.” Although Article 367 prescribed penalties ranging from three years and one day to 20 years’ imprisonment, many child sex trafficking crimes were subject to penalties of only three years and one day to five years’ imprisonment under this provision, significantly lower than the penalties available under Article 411-quater. Under mandatory sentencing laws, judges frequently suspended or commuted sentences of less than five years’ imprisonment, even when adjudicating cases of human trafficking and other serious crimes. During the reporting period, the government approved an amendment raising the maximum penalty for trafficking offenses involving adult or child victims under Article 411-quater from 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Law enforcement initiated 184 trafficking investigations in 2021 (120 child sex trafficking investigations under Article 367, 32 sex trafficking investigations under Article 411, and 32 labor trafficking investigations under Article 411), compared with 193 investigations initiated (136 child sex trafficking investigations under Article 367, 39 sex trafficking investigations under Article 411, and 18 for labor trafficking under Article 411) in 2020 and 171 in 2019. Authorities prosecuted 10 alleged traffickers in 2021 (four for child sex trafficking under Article 367 and two for sex trafficking and four for labor trafficking under Article 411), compared with seven alleged traffickers in 2020 (two for child sex trafficking under Article 367 and five for labor trafficking under Article 411) and 22 in 2019 (four under Article 367 and 18 under Article 411). There were five ongoing labor trafficking prosecutions initiated in previous reporting periods. The government convicted seven traffickers in 2021 (two child sex traffickers under Article 367 and three sex traffickers and two labor traffickers under Article 411), compared with six traffickers in 2020 (one child sex trafficker under Article 367 and three sex traffickers and two labor traffickers under Article 411) and six in 2019 (two under Article 367 and four under Article 411).

Judges issued sentences ranging from five to 12 years’ imprisonment for the five traffickers convicted under Article 411; courts sentenced the two traffickers convicted under Article 367 to 18 months’ overnight imprisonment and four years’ continuous imprisonment, respectively. Courts also levied fines against six of the convicted traffickers. Two traffickers convicted under Article 411 received suspended sentences, compared with four traffickers (three convicted under Article 411 and one under Article 367) in 2020. In general, most convicted traffickers in Chile ultimately served parole or probation without post-trial imprisonment. In the past five years, judges sentenced 11 of 57 convicted traffickers to penalties above the mandatory minimum. Judges suspended the sentences of more than 55 percent of traffickers convicted since 2017, which weakened deterrence. Judges often held accused traffickers in pretrial detention. The government continued to investigate and prosecute individuals that engaged in commercial sex with children, resulting in four convictions in 2021, compared with two convictions in 2020 and eight in 2019. Judges convicted and sentenced three of these individuals to periods of probation; in one case, the courts sentenced the convicted individual to 541 days’ conditional imprisonment, allowing him to serve probation in lieu of imprisonment.

The national investigations police (PDI) had three specialized anti-trafficking units operating in Arica, Iquique, and Santiago. The government continued to use special pandemic-mitigation measures, allowing prosecutors to work remotely and courts to hold most hearings via videoconference; the national prosecutor’s office (MP) noted most criminal trials proceeded with modest delays throughout the reporting period. The government exchanged nine cooperation requests with Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. Authorities’ use of electronic transmission of cooperation requests facilitated the continuation of these exchanges during the pandemic. The government’s interagency task force on trafficking (MITP) provided specialized training to investigators, attorneys, advisors, and staff on a range of trafficking issues; it delivered most trainings virtually in 2021. Law enforcement could use a software system to search for evidence of official complicity in trafficking cases. The government continued to investigate two cases of alleged official complicity: a 2020 case involving a law enforcement officer accused of obstructing a sex trafficking investigation and another case involving a National Service for Minors (SENAME) care facility director allegedly involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of two children under her supervision—allegations which, if proven, would amount to sex trafficking under the international law definition.

The government maintained victim protection efforts. MITP coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, including victim assistance. The government identified 49 adult trafficking victims in 2021, compared with 47 adult victims (21 men and 26 women) in 2020 and 37 in 2019. The government did not report victims’ gender or specify how many traffickers exploited in sex trafficking, as opposed to labor trafficking. The government did not report how many child trafficking victims it identified in 2021, compared with two each in 2020 and 2019; the government instead reported identifying 30 child victims of commercial sexual exploitation—a broader categorization that included victims of trafficking, as well as certain non-trafficking crimes. The government reported all adult victims identified in 2021 were foreign citizens, primarily from Bolivia, Colombia, Haiti, and Venezuela. The government had a uniform reporting mechanism and a set of internal resources on trafficking indicators to guide public agencies’ efforts to identify potential trafficking; it provided additional support for agencies reporting potential victims for the first time.

The MP’s Regional Victims and Witness Assistance Unit (URAVIT) provided assistance to all 49 identified adult trafficking victims in 2021. The National Service of Women and Gender Equality (SERNAMEG) reported it provided shelter services to 10 adult women victims in 2021, compared with 16 in 2020. The MITP’s protocol on victim assistance entitled victims to safe housing, health services, psychological services, legal assistance, education, employment assistance, and regularization of migratory status. The Ministry of Interior’s Victim Assistance Network (RAV) and URAVIT coordinated housing for victims; the government could place up to 10 female trafficking victims at a time in SERNAMEG’s specialized shelter for trafficking victims. The government placed most female victims, including those located outside the capital, in SERNAMEG’s domestic violence shelters or NGO-run shelters. URAVIT could arrange housing in hotels for male victims on a case-by-case basis; however, there were no shelters for male victims. The provision of victim services remained uneven across the country, and NGOs reported funding was inadequate to provide necessary services, especially adequate shelter for children and male victims. The government did not fund most NGOs that provided victim assistance; most agencies did not have specific line items in their budgets for victim assistance. Reintegration services, such as education and job placement assistance, were insufficient, and officials reported victims had limited access to adequate mental health services.

URAVIT budgeted 35.4 million Chilean pesos ($42,020) to provide housing and other basic needs for trafficking victims and potential victims in 2021, down from approximately 84 million Chilean pesos ($99,700) in 2020. SERNAMEG allocated 129.7 million Chilean pesos ($153,950) in funding for its NGO-operated shelter for women victims of trafficking, smuggled women, and their children, compared with allocating 136 million pesos ($161,420) in 2020 and 127 million pesos ($150,740) in 2019. The government provided victims legal representation under the victim assistance protocol; the Ministry of Justice provided legal representation to child victims, SERNAMEG provided it to women victims, and MITP’s civil society members provided representation for male victims.

The government restructured and renamed its child protection agency, which was responsible for most services for child trafficking victims; in 2021, SENAME became Better Childhood. Better Childhood, like SENAME, was responsible for providing basic services to child trafficking victims through a network of programs for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and care facilities; during the transition, Better Childhood contracted an NGO to ensure child trafficking victims received care without interruption. Better Childhood did not report its budget allocation for child and adolescent victim services in 2021, compared with 3.26 billion pesos ($3.87 million) in 2020, 3.37 billion pesos ($4 million) in 2019, and 3 billion pesos ($3.56 million) in 2018. Better Childhood assisted 1,417 children in 2021 and 1,371 children in 2020, compared with 1,477 children in 2019, 1,459 children in 2018, and 1,350 children in 2017; Better Childhood did not track how many of the children it assisted were trafficking victims. The government did not report the number of child or adolescent victims of commercial sexual exploitation included in the worst forms of child labor registry in 2021, compared with 80, eight of whom were sex trafficking victims, in 2020. Better Childhood continued to decommission the agency’s Specialized Redress Centers under Direct Administration (CREADs), the facilities that served most child trafficking victims under SENAME’s care, replacing them with smaller “family-style residences.” According to government reports, children in CREADs were at severe risk of rights violations and sexual abuse. The government closed one CREAD in 2021, leaving three of the original 11 facilities operational.

The government issued 16 no-fee visas for foreign trafficking victims, compared to 11 in 2020. These visas were valid for up to one year and renewable for up to two additional years if the victim reported the trafficking crime to the prosecutor’s office. Foreign victims received the same victim services and courtroom accommodations—such as teleconference, witness protection, and video testimony—as Chilean victims. URAVIT continued to use a video interpretation service, adopted as a pandemic-mitigation measure, to facilitate safe exchanges between law enforcement and victims of all crimes, including trafficking victims, providing access to interpretation in sign language, regional Indigenous languages, Haitian Creole, and Chinese. Despite these efforts, the government reported challenges in encouraging victims to participate in a full trial. The government had until 2022 to gradually implement a 2019 law to reduce re-traumatization of child and adolescent victims through required video testimony facilitated by an expert intermediary; six regions operated under the new requirement in 2021. The government provided an intensive training course on video testimony to 26 PDI officials. Victims could receive restitution or compensation through criminal or civil cases, respectively; in 2021, the courts awarded three victims 10 million pesos ($11,870) each in restitution upon the conviction of the trafficker who exploited them in sex trafficking.

The government maintained modest prevention efforts. The Ministry of Interior continued to lead the MITP, which included government agencies, international organizations, and local NGOs. The task force met more frequently than in the previous reporting period, holding two general meetings during the reporting period; its subcommittee on victim assistance met separately seven times. The MITP continued informal implementation of a draft 2019-2022 national action plan, which had not been approved at the ministerial level and was not public. There was no federal allocation to fund the implementation of the draft plan; instead, each agency contributed to implementation from its own budget. Personnel and budget constraints affected several agencies with victim protection and trafficking prevention responsibilities. Observers noted a need for more robust coordination and data-sharing among government agencies.

The government held awareness-raising events throughout the year, targeting the general public and officials who might encounter trafficking victims in the course of their duties; the majority of these events took place online. Several agencies operated hotlines that could take calls on trafficking victims. The government reported operators received trafficking-related calls to these hotlines but did not report the number of investigations initiated from hotline calls during the reporting period, compared with at least 15 investigations in 2020. Labor inspectors were trained to identify trafficking indicators and conducted more than 75,000 worksite inspections, during which they identified 218 child labor violations, some of which may have constituted trafficking offenses; this compares with 65,000 inspections and identification of 66 child labor violations in the previous reporting period. The labor inspectorate imposed sanctions and levied fines against offenders. The national tourism service, in collaboration with Better Childhood, continued its certification of tourism organizations and establishments that adhere to best practices for the prevention of child sex trafficking; businesses participated in an anti-trafficking training during the certification process. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Chile and, to a lesser extent, traffickers exploit Chilean victims abroad. Chilean women and children are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, as are women and girls from Asia and other Latin American countries, particularly Colombia. Government reporting indicates Bolivian, Colombia, Paraguayan, and Thai migrants are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Children staying in child protection centers are at risk of potential abuse, including trafficking. Some traffickers may recruit children staying in child protection centers. Traffickers exploit adults and children—primarily from other Latin American countries, as well as Asia—in forced labor in Chile in mining; agriculture; construction; street vending; the hospitality, restaurant, and garment sectors; and domestic service. Traffickers subject Chinese and Haitian immigrants to sex trafficking and forced labor and Colombian women to sex trafficking. Chilean authorities identified a significant number of children involved in illicit activities, including drug trafficking and theft; some of these children may have been trafficking victims. Traffickers subject Chilean men to labor trafficking in Peru and Chilean women to sex trafficking in Argentina, as well as other countries. Foreign traffickers worked in tandem with Chilean traffickers to exploit victims. Most convicted traffickers were Chilean, Ecuadorian, or Bolivian citizens; men and women were equally represented among convicted traffickers. An international organization expressed concern striking workers in certain industries could be imprisoned and forced to work. Police often frequent brothels in small towns, and labor inspectors in rural areas maintain relationships with local businesses, dissuading potential trafficking victims from reporting exploitation and fueling perceptions of complicity.

Officials recognize growing migrant communities, especially irregular Venezuelan migrants, as increasingly at risk of trafficking. Migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 30 percent experiencing job loss with limited alternatives amid regional movement restrictions. Due to the pandemic, the government closed national borders to non-resident foreign nationals from March 2020 until October 2021; land borders remained closed through December 2021. With official crossings closed, officials continued to detect large numbers of irregular migrants entering Chile, primarily Venezuelans via northern land borders. Stricter immigration laws also contributed to heightened vulnerability in migrant populations, especially Venezuelans. Under its new immigration framework, effective April 2021 but retroactive to the March 2020 border closure, the government did not permit irregular migrants or those entering the country on a tourist visa to alter their residency status in-country; undocumented migrants present in Chile before March 2020 could regularize their status, reducing their vulnerability to trafficking, via a special dispensation through January 2022. Civil society actors and government officials both expressed concern the confluence of increased irregular arrivals and the new regulations would increase migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking. The same immigration reform law included a provision to expressly prohibit the deportation of identified trafficking victims.

U.S. Department of State

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